Well... the first half of 2022 has been a whirlwind and God is doing lots of things with our ministry. We do want to tell you a few quick stories of what God has been doing through Underground Coffee in Laos:
Our Team at the Brewer's Going Away Dinner
CHANGES TO THE TEAM
We recognize that there are seasons to ministry, and after 8 years the Brewers have transitioned from living in Laos to living in Texas. This has been in the works for over a year and a half (and shouldn't surprise anyone). Brian is still working with Underground Coffee and still involved with coordinating things in Laos as well as making a few trips out each year. He will also be spending more time visiting churches and fund-raising, so you'll probably be seeing more of him starting this fall.
We also made a new addition to the team at the beginning of 2022. Roy and Nina Rubia officially came on in January, however it took until March to get them to Laos. Roy and Nina have lived in Laos before and we've been in talks with them joining us for several years. They are passionate about the people of Laos and seeing the church grow.
The Almines as well as the three Lao families that have worked with us for years are all doing well and excited to see what God is doing in Laos. Thew past few years in Laos have been challenging with restricted travel and movement as well as a current financial problems in the country which have led to hyper-inflation and fuel shortages. Through all that they remain faithful and excited about the work.
The guys on the farm sporting our shirts and hats from our buyer in Colorado
COFFEE BUSINESS AND SUSTAINABILITY PROGRESS
It has been a challenging year for coffee. We exported our coffee to the US last summer and it took almost 4 months to arrive (and that was with some major strings being pulled). Because of COVID, shipping rates have tripled as well as coffee prices being up 250% from 2020. After talking to our buyers as well as all of the farmers in the area, we decided to take a break from harvest in 2021 and instead focus on getting projects completed and looking to harvest in Fall of 2022. Because coffee prices were up so much this year, farmers were getting paid triple for their low quality coffee and most of the farmers decided to sell to the Vietnamese buyers and focus on other crops.
With the sky-high prices of the last year has come a renewed interest in growing coffee in our region. We focused on our seedling distribution program and increased the number of coffee seedlings that we gave away. Instead of giving away the usual 20,000 seedlings in a year, we instead gave away over 32,000 high quality seedlings to farmers in our area.
We've also been focused on scaling up our drying areas and processing capacity. Our hope is to buy and process more coffee this fall than we ever have and send it to our buyer in Colorado as well as new places in the United States. The Brewers were able to spend time in Colorado last summer and the hope is to bring our coffee buyer and other key individuals on trips to Laos in the fall and spring.
With Roy joining the team and having an agricultural background, we've started to focus more on wholistic agricultural development. Basically, we're looking to introduce animals into our project that can be replicated by farmers and become an additional source of income for them.
Our Farm Manager's son reading the Bible at our village church's Christmas celebration
Even though we believe that our ministry overflows into the work that we do on the farm, there are a couple highlights that specifically fall in the ministry category.
Our church in the village of our farm continues to grow despite challenges to travel over the past two years. Many areas around us are still very closed off and wary of outsiders coming in to the village. Our seedling program has created lots of followup with families. Our farm managers (Kiyat and Boun) go out every week to visit with families and try to meet with each family at least once a month. These meetings not only revolve around the health of the coffee but also the health of peoples families and they always ask if there is anything they can pray for.
A new church plant has been started in a neighboring province. Our farm managers are both from an ethnic minority group and have lots of family in that province. Several years ago our farm manager, Kiyat, helped to start a church in one of these villages. Over the past year, our other farm manager, Boun, has been able to help start a new house church in this region. This area is very unreached and Boun has been going out and helping people to worship and understand the Bible in their own language.